Professor Ann Skelton

Position, academic & professional qualifications

Ann Skelton is a Professor in the Department of Private Law and the holder of the UNESCO Chair: Education Law in Africa. She holds the degrees BA LLB (UKZN) LLD (Pret). Her doctoral thesis title was ‘The influence of the theory and practice of restorative justice in South Africa’s with special reference to child justice’. She holds a B1 NRF rating and is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). She is admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa.

Academic & professional experience

Skelton was appointed as a Full Professor in the Department of Private Law in 2014. At that time, she had been working for 10 years in the Department as Director of the Centre for Child Law, and was already an internationally recognised scholar. She was appointed as incumbent in the UNESCO Chair in 2013. Prior to joining the University, Skelton was a public prosecutor (1986-1988), a director at Lawyers for Human Rights (1988-1999), and a technical assistance project leader for the UNDP (1999-2004). She played a major role in child law reform: She chaired the SALRC Committee that drafted the Child Justice Act, and was a member of the Committee that drafted the Children’s Act.

Skelton initiated the strategic litigation work at the Centre for Child Law in UP Law and has appeared as counsel in many landmark cases, including 12 cases in the South African Constitutional Court.

Skelton was nominated by the South African government and elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations to be a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a UN Nations Treaty Body. Her term of office is for four years, with effect from March 2017, and South Africa has nominated her for a second term of office.  On 24 November 2020, Skelton received confirmation that she was reappointed for a second term, from March 2021 to February 2025.

Teaching and supervision activities

Skelton co-ordinates and teaches the LLM in Child Law, and the final year LLB elective Education Law (ONR 420). She supervises LLB, LLM and LLD students in her subject areas.

Internationally, she teaches a course on Children’s Rights in the International Masters in Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. She is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Stratchclyde and the first incumbent in the Rotating Chair: Enforcement of Children’s Rights at the University of Leiden.

Representative publications

  1. Too much of a good thing? Best interests of the child in South African jurisprudence’ (2019) 52(1) De Jure 557 – 579  DOI: 10.17159/2225-7160/2019/v52a32 
  2. ‘Children’s rights: Social change through the application of hard and soft international law’ in D Bradlow and D Hunter (eds) Advocating social change through International Law: Exploring the choice between hard and soft international law (2019) Brill: Leiden
  3.  ‘A hiding to something: Reduction of violence against children in South Africa’s justice system’ in W O’Brien and C Foussard (eds) Violence Against Children in the Criminal Justice System: Global Perspectives on Prevention (2019) Routledge: Abingdon
  4.  ‘Human rights and restorative justice’ in T Gavrielides (ed) Routledge International Handbook of Restorative Justice (2019) Routledge: Abingdon
  5.  ‘Children’s rights’ in J Brickhill (ed) Public Interest Litigation in South Africa (2018) Juta: Claremont 978-1-48512-816-8
  6. ‘Child justice in South Africa: Application of international instruments by the Constitutional Court’ (2018) 26 International Journal of Children’s Rights 391-422
  7. ‘International Children’s Rights Law: Complaints and Remedies’ in: In: Kilkelly and Liefaard (eds) International Human Rights of Children Springer: Singapore (2018)
  8. ‘Balancing autonomy and protection in children’s rights: A South African account’ Summer 2016 (88) 4 Temple Law Review 887-904
  9. ‘S v Williams: A springboard for further debate about corporal punishment’ 2015 Acta Juridica 336-359
  10. ‘Freedom in the Making’ in F Zimring et al Juvenile Justice in Global Perspective (2015) NYU Press: New York
  11. ‘Leveraging funds for school infrastructure: The South African ‘mud schools’ case study’ 2014 (39) International Journal of Educational Development 59-63
  12. ‘Proposals for the review of the minimum age of criminal responsibility 2013 (3) South African Journal of Criminal Justice 257-275
  13. ‘The role of the courts in ensuring the right to a basic education in a democratic South Africa: a critical evaluation of recent education case law’ 2013 46(1) De Jure 1-23
  14. ‘The automatic review of child offenders’ sentences’ 2013 44 SA Crime Quarterly 37-44
  15. ‘How far will the courts go in ensuring the right to a basic education?’ 2012 (27) Southern African Public Law 392-408
  16. ‘The South African Constitutional Court’s restorative justice jurisprudence 2013 1(1) Restorative Justice: An International Journal 122-145
  17. ‘The role of the courts in ensuring the right to a basic education in a democratic South Africa: a critical evaluation of recent education case law’ 2013 46(1) De Jure 1-23
  18. ‘From Cook County to Pretoria: A long walk to justice for children’ 2011 6(2) Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy 414-427
  19. Co-editor with Davel Commentary on the Children’s Act Juta: Cape Town (OS 2010).
Areas of specialisation
Child Law, International Human Rights of Children, Criminal Justice, Strategic litigation and Restorative Justice.
  1. Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
  2. Chairperson Advisory Board of the Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty
  3. International Ambassador for the British Society of Criminology)
  4. Editorial board: Peace Human Rights Governance (University of Padova, Italy)
  5. Editorial board: Youth Justice: An International Journal, published by Sage Journals
  6. Former Chair of the Expert Drafting Group: Abidjan Principles.

Awards and Prizes

  1. Exceptional Achievers Award presented in 2018 by the University of Pretoria
  2. Justice without borders award’ recognising 20 years of work on juvenile justice, presented by the International Juvenile Justice Observancy, Paris
  3. Honorary Worlds Children’s Prize presented in 2012 by Queen Sylvia of Sweden.


Email: [email protected]

Tel:  +27 (0)12 420 2307



Published by Elzet Hurter

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